New York Jets: Offseason failure presents itself through DeAndre Hopkins

The New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals are each seeking returns to glory. Arizona showed why they have a major head start on Sunday.

New York Jets fans may think they have it back, but supporters of the Arizona Cardinals have about a half-century headstart if the two sides were to engage in comparing struggles of NFL fandom.

Technically speaking, the Cardinals first came to life as “Morgan Athletic Club” on the South Side of Chicago in 1898…14 years before Arizona was admitted to the Union. The organization that came to become Cardinals first partook in professional competition in 1920, though they’ve struggled to stock their trophy case since then. They mustered only two NFL championships prior to the 1970 merger and have appeared in a single Super Bowl through endeavors in Chicago, St. Louis, and The Grand Canyon State. Unlike the Jets, the Cardinals couldn’t come home with a victory in that visit to the Big Game (though it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying).

Thus, both the Cardinals and Jets are used to the concept of a rebuild. A good number of their quadrennial meetings have been played in the backdrop of such. Sunday’s Week 5 get-together was no exception.

Enough has been written in metropolitan circles about the Jets’ playoff drought, one that’s set to graduate from elementary school at this rate. This latest portion of perpetual reconstruction appeared to provide assurances of a reliable franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold and a well-founded offensive mind in Adam Gase. As the first four weeks had proven, both of those expectations have now only been added to the Jets’ endless list of questions. Darnold was held from the Arizona matchup, leading to Joe Flacco taking his place.

Sunday was perhaps meant to be the first professional meeting between Darnold and his fellow Southern California native, college football legend, and 2018 draftee Josh Rosen. Instead, Rosen and head coach Steve Wilks seem like a distant memory, respectively replaced by NFL sophomores Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury (he of two NFL passes, both with the Jets).

While the Cardinals were the strong favorites in Sunday’s meeting…and the 30-10 final decision in their favor did nothing to dispel that notion…it would be fair to say that, from a team standpoint, both sides had little to lose in whatever kind of season the NFL would be able to wrangle out of 2020. The Jets had to deal with an upstart Buffalo team and the eternal contenders from New England in their division. Arizona’s NFC West brethren have represented the conference in five of the past eight Super Bowls. Missing the playoffs at this point in their respective franchise timelines would be nothing to be upset about.

However, one player showcased just how wide the divide is between the modern incarnations of these star-crossed franchises: Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins is used to restoring football entities back to their former state of glory. A breakout sophomore season at Clemson commenced an unprecedented, ongoing streak of success for the Tigers. Once acquired by the Houston Texans, another breakout second-year saw the NFL’s youngest franchise leap from two wins to nine. He went on to oversee what’s been Houston’s most successful endeavors, earning winning season in five of his six campaigns.

A since-fired head coach/general manager (Bill O’Brien) offered Hopkins’ services to a devouring NFL public this offseason. Each of Houston’s 31 competitors had reason to engage in trade talks, but both New York and Arizona had special cases.

The Jets’ approach to the 2020 offseason was an understandable undertaking: find protection for Darnold. For all their shortcomings, the Jets did manage to somewhat succeed in that regard, mostly through the drafting of Mekhi Becton at No. 11 overall. But Darnold’s weaponry remained a question. The Jets let Robby Anderson abscond to Carolina with little resistance and the selection of Becton came with the sacrificial bypassing of several elite receiving prospects (Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy). With Darnold’s sense of on-field continuity mostly gone…tight end Chris Herndon was the only receiver leftover from his rookie season…the Jets opted to sign December wonder Breshad Perriman, who was finally showcasing his first-round potential in Tampa Bay after an injury to Mike Evans.

They also drafted Baylor playmaker Denzel Mims with their first post-Becton selection, but bringing in a talent like Hopkins could’ve worked wonders, provided a heavenly spark of momentum for a team struggling to light a match. They had the cap space to work with as well, partially boosted by the releases of veterans like Trumaine Johnson and Brian Winters. The Jets also had some extra draft capital to work with as well, the most high-profile addition being a day two choice earned through the Leonard Williams trade.

New York Giants, DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was a day two pick that eventually netted Hopkins, but it was Arizona who pounced. In exchange for rusty former fantasy football hero David Johnson, an immediate second-round choice, and a fourth-rounder reserved for next spring, Hopkins joined a mostly homegrown arsenal featuring Christian Kirk, sophomore projects Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson..and, of course, the eternal Larry Fitzgerald.

Therein lies the difference between the Jets and Cardinals: Arizona surrounded their franchise catalyst with weaponry that can assist in present and future exploits. The Jets opted to focus solely on the future…without trying to prove anything in the present. Arizona (3-2) is thus blessed with a rebuild that’s ahead of schedule. The might Seahawks and Rams (a combined 9-1) present a major problem, but they’re currently tied with Carolina for the last spot in the premature NFC wild-card picture, bolstered by an opening weekend win over defending Big Game finalists in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Jets wallow in the NFL’s cellar, morbidly counting down the days until a purge that presumably waiting until the offseason.

That was purely on display on Sunday. Hopkins earned a game-best 131 yards on six receptions, his last being a 37-yard scoring hookup between him and Murray that created the final margin and inexplicably led to an unsuccessful two-point conversion after the Jets invaded the neutral zone on the extra point. Hopkins’ performance shows that not even Gregg Williams’ defense can be exempt from the changes ahead, while also giving the Jets (0-5) an all-too-relevant case of what might’ve been. Neither Perriman nor Mims was available for Sunday’s proceedings, each sidelined due to injuries.

Injuries should never be held against NFL players. Football is a violent game, one that can swipe away fortunes and glory in the blink of an eye, as Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott tragically found out the hard way in Sunday’s late window. There’s still time for Perriman to live up to the $8 million the Jets are paying him for what’s currently a single year of service and Mims has a lot of time to show that he can be a day two receiving gem. However, Hopkins’ showing in East Rutherford can serve as a bit of reckoning for general manager Joe Douglas as well.

As a relatively late arrival to the proceedings of the Darnold era, Douglas has a bit of a longer leash than some of his green comrades. Hopkins held not only Douglas’ regime accountable, but that of Mike Maccagnan’s as well. For all the negligence Maccagnan displayed on the offensive line, the receiving corps remained famished as well. The four receivers chosen in Maccagnan drafts (Devin Smith, Charone Peake, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen in 2015-19) earned a combined 47 receptions. None of them are currently in the Jets’ organization and only Smith (a second-round choice in 2015) is still on the outskirts of an NFL roster (Houston’s practice squad).

Douglas has built goodwill in green circles by addressing the blocking woes Maccagnan more or less ignored and netting two first-round picks for a certain star safety that napalmed every bridge he had in New York. But the failure to surround Darnold with weapons could well for the downfall for both of them. Watching Hopkins on MetLife Stadium’s treacherous turf forced one to recall that Douglas addressed rumors of Hopkins and Stefon Diggs (who’s off to a tremendous in Buffalo) with claims of “due diligence” and not having “a ton of discussions with the Texans” (per ESPN’s Rich Cimini).

Maybe acquiring Hopkins would’ve cost the Jets a little too much of their offseason capital. 2020 was never meant to be a playoffs-or-bust season (even in these dark modern times, Christopher Johnson has refused to place a postseason mandate on the beleaguered Gase). But the opportunity for the Jets to take a major step forward has come and gone. No one’s entirely sure when, or even if, the next one’s going to come.

There are many unfortunate occasions that could well come to define the 2020 New York Jets. Watching Hopkins tear up a field he could’ve called his own could be one of the many turning points this team in flux and transition is going to work with.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Arizona

Another painful loss awaited the New York Jets in their return to MetLife Stadium. ESM takes a look at the plays that changed the game.

There was a new quarterback and new men on the offensive line thanks to injuries. But the New York Jets were forced to endure the same result.

Kyler Murray tallied 401 yards of offense, with 131 of his passing haul going to DeAndre Hopkins. Their Arizona Cardinals tallied a 30-10 road win over the hapless Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Jets (0-5) earned a nominal bright spot in the form of Jamison Crowder, who reached triple digits in receiving for the third time this season (116 yards on 8 receptions).

As we do each week…someone’s got to do it…ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that are shaping the Jets’ present and future for better or worse…

1st Quarter: Chase Hit

The Jets’ defense rose to the occasion in the early going, forcing Arizona into a three-and-out on their opening drive. A Joe Flacco-led offense was struggling to get things rolling, but Braden Mann helped the defense out with a 54-yard punt that situated the Cardinals on their own 11. Alas, it only signaled the start of New York’s demise.

Arizona would embark on a scoring drive, needing only eight plays to go 89 yards. The Cardinals (3-2) faced only one third down on the drive, and that was only when they needed a single yard at the cusp of the Jets’ 30. It also brought forth a 29-yard touchdown run from Chase Edmunds, giving the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.

Alas for the Jets, long drives and defensive lapses, even if they’re brought forth by short three-and-outs from the offense, have become far too common. When the inevitable purge comes to both the roster and staff, members of the defense should not be exempt.

2nd Quarter: 4th-and-Done

The Jets should be commended for their reckless abandon on fourth down in recent weeks. They know that the playoffs are but a pipe dream and more than likely will be destined for a high draft pick. With all due respect to Mann, a serviceable draft pick to date, he shouldn’t be seeing the field once the Jets cross their own 40. The same could go for Sam Ficken if it’s a long situation, though he continued his perfect streak in the early going with a triple in the first half.

Faced with a single yard to go on the Arizona 13, the Jets opted for an unusual option, handing the ball off to tight end-turned-fullback Trevon Wesco. The intention was pure…Wesco’s brief time in the backfield yielded a couple of first downs last season…but the execution simply wasn’t there. Starting the 6-foot-6-inches Flacco in place of the injured Sam Darnold, the time was perfect for a quarterback sneak. Flacco even showcased some hidden rushing talents to the tune of 20 yards on a quartet of carries. Instead, they tried to force nearly the exact same play, only this time with Le’Veon Bell. The Jets’ willingness to take risks is admirable, but ended a 14-play trek with no points on two failed rushes only adds to their plethora of embarrassment.

3rd Quarter: Manhattan Jam Crowder

The Jets have been through a lot this season, and there’s still a dozen weeks left on the horizon. Their most consistent silver lining has by far been Crowder, who had one of his strongest games of the season. He came up particularly big in the third quarter, first accounting for Flacco’s longest pass of the day at 52 yards, setting the Jets up in Arizona territory. Three plays later, Crowder dodged a pair of Cardinal defenders to earn an 11-yard touchdown that narrowed things to a single possession.

New York has been through a lot this season, much of it showing just how far they are from mere playoff contention, much less a Super Bowl. But the veteran Crowder is making himself essential as a presumed purge lures on the horizon.

4th Quarter: Buried by Kingsbury

Sunday’s second half featured plenty of instances where one could declare “only the Jets!”. For example, an untimed down at the end of the third quarter led to a false start. That duplicated an incident in the second quarter when they took a delay of game after an interception (on a red zone drive that eventually led to Ficken’s field goal). But a neutral zone infraction after Arizona’s final touchdown (a 37-yard hookup between Murray and Hopkins) led to Kliff Kingsbury opting to go for two despite owning a 30-10 led that became the final margin. Who knows what the Jets did to Kingsbury, who pair of NFL passes came in New York, but it was enough to try and help anyone who had Arizona -21.5 out and goes to show how far the Jets have fallen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

Recapping the New York Jets’ first day of free agency

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The New York Jets have expressed a lot of interest but done very little, so here’s a breakdown of all that’s gone down in regards to the Jets today for both sides of the ball. As for tomorrow, Gang Green needs to wake up.

Offensive Line Rumors

The Jets were in on three key offensive linemen — Graham Glasgow, Joe Thuney, and Jack Conklin. All three are not going to be joining the Green and White. Despite prioritizing building through the trenches, the Jets added one offensive lineman today, and it was a guy they could’ve waited to scoop up in George Fant. The Jets need to add interior offensive linemen and are reportedly targeting C/G Steven Wisniewski & G Greg Van Roten. Van Roten is a longtime Jets fan and great pass protector, Wisniewski is a veteran with Douglas connections.

Wide Receiver Rumors

The Jets are devoted to helping Sam, but at what cost? The Jets missed out on adding either Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, and DeAndre Hopkins. All three would’ve been legit number one receivers. Now the Jets head towards day two of free agency looking to add playmakers. Phillip Dorsett is reportedly a big target. Dorsett is the only guy the Jets have publicly been linked to, but expect more to emerge tomorrow and keep an eye on Emmanuel Sanders.

Edge Rusher Rumors

The Jets have been very active in expressing interest here. The Jets have shown interest in Dante Fowler Jr as expected. However, the Jets have also shown SERIOUS interest in Jadeveon Clowney. If the money is there and feasible, the Jets should go after him. He would be a monster for Gregg Williams to have fun with on defense. Fowler and Clowney would immediately add more star power on defense. The Jets also seem inclined to let Jordan Jenkins walk per Connor Hughes of The Athletic.

As for lesser names, the Jets had shown interest in Kyle Van Noy before the Dolphins added him. Expect them to target Markus Golden as well.

Cornerback Rumors

The Jets were in on both James Bradberry and Byron Jones, but it seemed more than likely they would target lesser corners. Desmond Trufant was released by Atlanta today and has already been linked to the Jets. As has Chris Harris Jr. and Prince Amukamara. Brian Poole is a guy the Jets would like to bring back, but cost is debatable. Corner is a priority for the Jets, and their goal is to find value guys.

New York Giants miss out on DeAndre Hopkins and Calais Campbell – a concept

New York Giants, DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

If there’s any single offensive player that can change the course of a game in a flash, it’s wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, who was an integral part of the Houston Texans. The New York Giants could have, theoretically, pursued him in a sneaky deal

Hopkins was reportedly being shopped in a potential trade as the Texans attempt to regain lost draft capital.

The star wideout would have been a target for the Giants, who currently don’t have a No. 1 wide receiver on the roster after trading away Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason. Supplying Jones with one of the best talents in the league would’ve been a good move, but it would cost the Giants draft capital in the process.

Hopkins commanded a second-round pick and David Johnson from the Cardinals. Arizona received Hopkins and a late-round pick in the deal. The most attractive part about Hopkins is his contract, which is set to pay him $14 million in 2020 and $15 million in 2021, an excellent price for one of the best offensive players in the NFL. However, he wants a new deal and Arizona can provide it.

A similar concept can be used for Calais Campbell, who was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a 5th-round pick.

What would DeAndre Hopkins have brought to the New York Giants?

As one of the least injury-prone wideouts in the game, Hopkins is a fantastic player that is reliable week in and week out. Having been a Pro Bowl player for the last three consecutive years and posted less than 1,000 yards just twice in his seven-year career, Hopkins can transform an offense, and pairing him with Saquon Barkley would have been exciting.

The Cardinals got significantly better on Monday, and will now expedite their rebuild with a player like Hopkins on offense.

 

Debate: Should the New York Giants take a WR at 4?

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

As the NFL season comes to a close, fans of the New York Giants have already begun speculating moves that their beloved team should do this offseason.  Something that has become all too familiar over the last few seasons.

One position of intrigue and debate is wide receiver.  After trading away Odell Beckham Jr. and being thin at the position, many wonders if the Giants will take an elite receiver at the top of this April’s NFL Draft.  Others, on the other hand, believe this would be a mistake. Which side are you on?

Making the case for a WR in Round 1

With the 4th overall pick in hand and considering the needs of Washington and Detroit in front of them, the New York Giants very likely could miss out on a premier defensive talent yet again.  Chase Young seems bound for Washington. Isaiah Simmons’ performance has made him a strong candidate to go 3rd overall. So, what does that mean for the Giants?

Popular options include trading back to a quarterback hungry team, taking a young offensive tackle or grabbing another cornerback.  However, many others think the New York Giants should be taking a wide receiver. 

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb have been considered by some to be ideal selections for the Giants.  Jeudy has been compared to the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper and can be the outside receiver New York covets. His speed and agility make him a threat at all levels.  

Then there is CeeDee Lamb.  Lamb has incredible ball skills and control of his 6’2” frame.  Many compare Lamb to Houston’s Deandre Hopkins or even 6-time Pro Bowler, Reggie Wayne.  How could the New York Giants pass on that?

Even if the Giants were to trade down, the talent in this draft class at the receiver is very deep.  Clemon’s Tee Higgins, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. are just some of the names that could be called in the 1st round.

Making the case against a WR in Round 1

The depth of this receiving class may be the strongest case against taking a receiver in the first round.  It is no secret that the New York Giants have needed all over, especially on the defense and offensive line.  Is taking a receiver in the Top 5 really the best use of draft capital?

Without trading out, the Giants are sitting in a great position to address many needs with premier talent.  Isaiah Simmons is an ideal fit, but may not be available. Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah is another top prospect that will be available with the 4th pick.  The tackle position is very top-heavy, with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas all being considered as the best tackle prospect in the class. 

The Giants have a talented group of receivers already, but they are thin at the position.  With the injuries they suffered last season, having depth is critical. Taking a wide receiver later in the draft may be their best option.  Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, Southern Cal’s Michael Pittman Jr. and Ohio State’s K.J.Hill are just some of the names the Giants could call at any point in the later rounds.  Temple wide receiver Isaiah Wright has been impressing scouts this week at the Shrine Bowl and could very well be a breakout player in the NFL.

What about the free-agent market?

The New York Giants are going to have a ton of money available for free agency.  If they prioritize the offensive line and defense in the NFL Draft, they have some options in free agency in order to build out the depth at wide receiver.

New York can definitely bring back guys that WR Coach Tyke Tolbert is familiar with.  Cody Latimer, Cody Core, and even Da’Mari Scott would all be unsurprising returns to the Giants.  If the G-Men dip elsewhere in free agency, they do have options. They could look to add a veteran with a one year deal, much like Randall Cobb, Demaryius Thomas or Danny Amendola.  The veteran option giving them depth, talent, and experience as a stop-gap for the season.

What about a younger option that could be signed for a longer deal?  WR Amari Cooper hasn’t be resigned by Dallas… yet. The Jets Robby Anderson looks to be headed to the open market and will be sought after.  There are also options like Rashard Higgins, who showed flashes with his time in Cleveland before the Browns brought in Landry and Odell.

Whatever the case may be, the New York Giants will have to address the lack of depth at wide receiver.  The talent is there, especially with the emergence of Darius Slayton, but there is a longevity concern that will need to be taken into consideration.